Ask Alex: Steelers Mailbag

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Welcome back to our weekly Thursday mailbag. Got some Senior Bowl coverage on right now, North team working now with the South following up in a bit, for the final practice before Saturday’s all-important game. So if you’re watching along, or have anything else on your mind, let us know in the comments below. We’ll hang around for a bit.

To your questions!


You’ve said you’re not sure the Steelers should run Marcus Gilbert out of town to soon. With Feiler, Chuks, Banner, and Hawkins on the roster why keep him?

The 4.9 million in cap savings isn’t earth shattering, but it’s also a pretty good chunk of change. There’s a reasonable amount of talent at tackle and those dollars can be useful at other spots.

Alex: Because he’s clearly the most talented of that group. You can’t compare Gilbert to Hawkins or Banner and really, not even Feiler. Chuks is the only one who has Gilbert’s ceiling and he’s not going to be there yet. The money isn’t a dealbreaker this year. So I understand keeping him. Worst-case scenario, it doesn’t work, and it still doesn’t significantly hurt this team because you have your next man up and guys who have NFL snaps under their belt.

Jason Campbell: Hey Alex, I’m sure you saw the Rams trying to cover some Saints wrs and Kamara with LBs. It was ugly. If Wade Phillips gets caught with it, does it soften the blow when Butler does it? Why is it so hard to get the LB and DB to switch? Am I looking at it wrong?

Alex: I saw it but obviously didn’t study it in-depth the way I do Pittsburgh. A linebacker on a back, even one like Kamara, you get it. There are only so many options. But it’s a problem if any team does it and I won’t give Butler a pass just because it happens elsewhere. Failure elsewhere doesn’t justify failure here. Not an acceptable answer.

stan: Is there any more news from Tomlin’s suggestion that he was adding another assistant coach? Are they going to add another O-line assistant to replace Surrat?

Alex: No clue. Guess we’ll find out. T.J. Watt said today he still doesn’t know who the OLB coach is. An assistant OL coach would be really nice but you need to find a guy who you trust to run the group, the way Sarrett has.

I think the biggest downside to losing Munchak is not being able to break those groups up into two. Like Munch take one, Sarrett take another. Maximized reps, got better coaching. But you gotta find the right dude, obviously.

Marcel Chris Chauvet: Happy Senior Bowl Week Alex! The scouting season is officially underway. These quarterbacks have looked unimpressive from everything I’ve watched thus far. And there really was a lot of buzz on these guys coming into the week. In your (expert) opinion, where would Mason Rudolph rank in this year’s class of QBs?

Alex: It’s definitely a down year. Not like last year or even two seasons ago. Drew Lock will go in the first round – not sure anyone else in Mobile will. Maybe Daniel Jones? Hard to slot Rudolph because it’s not like I’m studying QBs hard this year but I bet he’d be at the top. Probably above all the guys you’re watching in Mobile right now.

Vance Mac: # Passes per year are going up. # of total INTs per year has fallen off a cliff (especially the last 5 years). Gotta be rule changes, right? Which ones most account for this?

Alex: Big picture, no, I wouldn’t pin it on the rules. It’s the refinement of the passing games. Offenses are sharper, more spread out, quarterbacks more refined and getting better. Teams are using the quick game more. Three step drops, screen game, inflating the passing numbers. Us in Pittsburgh know that better than anyone else. Defenses will forever be forced to play catchup.

In Pittsburgh, it’s a lack of talent. QBs who don’t have ball skills. Eight INTs in a year is just pathetic, and a couple of those came from linebackers.


AK, can you please look at other teams drafts since tomlin has been here and somehow come up with a metric to show how good coblert and tomlin actually are at drafting? They’ve drafted a pro bowler in round 1 50% of the time. That is with an average pick of over 23. I imagine regardless of draft position, nobody comes closer to that figure of 50% over the same span. I’m just tired of these armchair GMs.

actual quesiton…how come daniel went and not you?

Alex: Ha, yeah, that would be a tall task. Anyone who thinks they’re horrific at drafting is just wrong. Look at the 2017 class. First three picks are Pro Bowlers. Honestly, and maybe this is something I will try to look up, when was the last time that happened two years into a class? So point taken, though it’s fair to be critical too because it hasn’t been all roses.

We wanted to give Daniel the opportunity this year. Let me hang back, help Dave with site stuff (I’m pretty useless when I’m gone) and with the podcast since I’m the host now. It’s unfortunate, though no one’s fault of course, that Daniel got pretty sick and had to fly back early. But we’ll try to get him back next year and I’ll probably join him.

Andy N: Hi, there is always lots of speculation on early round draft picks, but what’s your thoughts on the late rounds approach? Simply pick up what you can and hope they stick, or maybe a kicker, punter who has a chance?

Alex: I was actually already planning on writing an article later in the offseason posing the same question. Maybe they take a kicker. It’s clear they’re bringing in competition for Boswell, Rooney has said it twice now, and you’re not just adding “a guy” who has little to no shot of making the roster. You need a real push. This is a team who drafted a long snapper, in the 6th round no less, so why not kicker? I don’t rule it out.

Ike Evans: Alex who are the guys on defense in this draft youve seen, studied, or heard from those you trust to be big time playmakers?….personally Im a big fan of Mack Wilson in that regard, byron murphy from Washington, uva’s bryce hall, and the corner from penn state whose name i couldn’t pronounce if my life depended on it.

Alex: I’ll have a better answer later in the season. But you tell me, you’re one of the guys I trust. I’m with you on Murphy. The Penn State corner is nice though I like Murphy more. Hopefully I’ll have a lengthy list as we get close to the draft.

Darth Blount: 

PREDICTION TIME! Nice and tidy one-word answers…

1. Will Big Ben ever win another Super Bowl in Pittsburgh?
2. Will Big Ben be the Steelers starting QB in 2022 (his age 40 season)?
3. Will Mason Rudolph ever become the Steelers starting QB for an entire season?
4. Will Mike Tomlin ever win another Super Bowl in Pittsburgh?
5. Will Keith Butler still be the D. Coordinator in the 2020 season?


Alex: I hate your prediction questions but that’s balanced out by the one word answers you’re allowing me.

1. No
2. No (he’ll retire end of 2021)
3. Yes
4. No
5. No

GrumpyHighlander: Drew Lock is a funny guy

Alex: That was a really good interview on NFLN, for sure.

That’s all for this week. Thanks guys!

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